Kate Allan

The online diary of Kate Allan, author

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


It's here! The Lady Soldier is officially out today.

Join in the blog launch party: http://theladysoldier.blogspot.com

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Firefighting and giving yourself a break

The infamous Biddy, a writer friend I first met online a couple of years ago, posted on a board last week that she was stressed because all she seemed to be doing at work was firefighting. The word rang true because things have been so busy over the last six or so weeks that's what I've been doing too. Planning seems to have gone out of the window and because my job is international anyway, it would be hard to stick to standard work hours.

The problem comes when work and life begin to blend together and you can't seem to separate the two. Hearing a colleague on the telephone yesterday saying in a distressed voice, 'I don't need this!'
I felt awful. It was a sticky situation. There was nothing which could be done at that time to solve it. I said, 'Just don't worry for now. The sun is shining. Have a great bank holiday and we can all be calm and sort it out Tuesday.'
'Oh but you know me,' he said. 'I can just never switch off.'
And he's right. He can't.

And I'm worried I'm getting to that stage too.

Where does this leave writing?

Well, I don't have any time to do it. I'm too tired when I'm home in the evenings (if I'm home), and at the weekends I want to do other stuff that doesn't involve sitting in front of a computer which I'm doing all day at work anyway.

So once I've finished with edits on THE RAKE I think I'm going to allow myself the summer off - no more self-imposed writing deadlines which I'll then feel guilty about missing - and start a new project in the autumn...


You are kindly invited to the blog party
to celebrate the official launch of
The Lady Soldier by Jennifer Lindsay
Tues 31st May thru to Wed 1st June 2005
please spread the word

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Romantic comedy and waiters

It came to me around 48 hours ago. It has been buzzing about in my mind getting stronger until this morning, as I was walking through Covent Garden on the way to work, it morphed into an idea for a book. A romantic comedy. Not an historical. Not a family saga. A here and now thing that would probably get marketed as 'chick-lit' (or whatever they decide to market 'chick-lit' as next as it appears to be going out of fashion).

Now I know it is going to bug me until I promise it I'll at least try and write the first chapter. Gosh, the mixture of excitment yet frustration is really quite heady. (Or is it that I might have consumed one champagne cocktail too many last night? lol)

Excitement because ideas mean possibilities, which are always exciting. Frustration because if it kicks off and I end up putting THE ASSASIN on the back-burner, there's that ever-danger that there's another book I wanted to write which might not get written.

Speaking of last night, I had a very pleasant evening with friends at The Bluebird in Chelsea (thanks Michael!). I had a huge surprise that two friends had brought copies of The Lady Soldier along for me to sign for them! (thanks Charlotte and Richard!) So we are sitting around the table, ordering, and the waiters are hoovering as the book gets passed around, and people are talking about it. And the Maitre D' leans over and says, 'How wonderful, Madam. Congratulations.' And then after that I end up being served with everything first - which was a little strange as I wasn't guest of honour or anything. I wonder if this is what happens to celebrities in restaurants. Are the waiters primed to be on the lookout to spot them, so they can then defer accordingly?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Love you again amazon

Amazon.co.uk now have The Lady Soldier on 24 hour order. Thankfully! :) Back at around the 50k sale ranking mark which is better than the lows of 78k we reached last week when for some reason Amazon were showing a 6-8 week order time. (Cuz the book is not out perchance?)

(Not that authors obsess about amazon rankings or anything.)

Not writing-related:
Time wasting for cat lovers

Monday, May 23, 2005

Book tagged

Wendy tagged me, and as it's book-related, here goes:

Total number of books I own:
at a guess, 5000

Last book I bought:
Act of Courage - Allan Mallinson

Last book I read:
Pompeii - Robert Harris

5 books which mean a lot to me:
Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea - Arthur Ransome
The Less Decieved - Philip Larkin
Up The Line To Death - Various
Collected Poems - P B Shelley

I'd like to tag:
Kate Harrison
Anna Lucia
Alex Bordessa

Sunday, May 22, 2005


There is a certain joy in editing. Taking a page and working on it to make the words better, the sense clearer, playing with pace, shuffling sentences, creating new dialogue, sharpening point-of-view...

Nothing however, compares to the joy of finishing editing a novel.

I'm not at that joy yet with THE RAKE. With luck I might be able to get it done by the end of next weekend. Once I'm done I can get back to kicking off properly the writing of THE ASSASIN.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Congratulations Jan Jones!

So you guessed it. I didn't win the NWS award. The winner was author Jan Jones for her first novel Stage by Stage, published by Transita.

I'm not being flippant. I love A Notorious Deception for what it is. The judges said that A Notorious Deception was fast-paced with a great sense of period. But I wrote it as escapist entertainment. Not that there is anything wrong with escapist entertainment... but's not got that tug-on-heartstrings thing that should be winning romantic fiction prizes - it's adventure fiction.

The party at the Royal Overseas League was great. I was 45 minutes late, so the moment I walked in the room I was told to tell Nicola Cornick, NWS organiser, I'd made it. I then battled back to the door to lose my coat, pick up a glass of wine and spy fellow finalist Julie Cohen. I met new Hale author Fenella Miller, who has also sold a novel to DC Thomson and told me she'd printed off the first chapter of A Notorious Deception from the internet to see what DC Thomson wanted in terms of a Regency! How flattering. :)

I also met Linda Gillard, NWS finalist with her debut novel Emotional Geology, and had a great catch-up with another Transita author Sue Moorcroft, like me in a navy pinstripe trouser suit. It was lovely to meet US author Jo Manning who was in town with Margaret Evans Porter - both have historical romances published by NAL.

I caught up with Denise Williams, a NWS finalist with her Regency historical novel, The Captain's Prize, coming out with Mills & Boon. I'm looking forward to reading it.
I had a chat with Joanna Maitland, who's just had her first M&B historical out in the Czech Republic, and David Hessayon - the world's bestselling gardening author - who kindly supports the NWS award in honour of his late wife Joan Hessayon. I also chatted to author Gilli Allan (Allans unite!) with whom I went for dinner after, along with a dozen others including Katie Fforde, Bernardine Kennedy and Lesley Cookman.

Thank you Victoria Connelly for the photograph below of the NWS finalists.

(L-R) Margaret Pelling, Nicola Slade, Victoria Connelly, Me, Denise Williams, Jan Jones, Sophie King, Julie Cohen, Linda Gillard

NWS finalists 2005
(c) K Allan

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Survived Lincoln, tomorrow the RNA prize

Survived Lincoln. After biting my nails all the way there, convinced I'd be late or some other great disaster, it ended up all quite relaxed and cosy in the end. Everyone in the group was interested in the book, and in particular the historical subject matter, and the fact that it is written by two authors.

I read out various highlights of the first two chapters of The Lady Soldier, and then the 'theatre scene' from near the end of the book which was a scene I first drafted and really enjoyed researching and writing. It was great looking up the London theatre handbills from the spring of 1812 and seeing what was playing where at the time, and being able to use a real actress/playwright - Miss Jane Scott - for a cameo role. As well as researching what the theatres looked like, how the lighting would have worked, and the manners and customs of theatre going, etc

Tomorrow is the RNA Summer Party in London where I'm there as a guest as I'm shortlisted for the RNA New Writers Award. I won't win because while A Notorious Deception, my first novel, is a fair example of its genre - historical adventurous romance - it can't really compete with the longer, mainstream books which are on this year's shortlist. But I'm really happy to be shortlisted and intend to have a great time tomorrow with old and new faces and the other shortlisted authors. Authorblogger Julie Cohen is also on the shortlist, and I'm looking forward to meeting Linda Gillard whom I've chatted to over e-mail and who is flying down from Scotland specially to be there.

Now, the only problem with all this out-and-abouting is that I haven't written a word for over ten days... (not counting a few notes I jotted down for a scene that came to me for THE ASSASIN when I was in the US).

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Night before panic

I'm doing readings from The Lady Soldier at Lincoln Book Festival tomorrow.

People are paying a fiver each (three pounds concessions) to hear me.

I had better deliver.


Sunday, May 15, 2005

Eight rubbish things which happen to authors

1. Amazon decides your book, due to be published in two weeks, is actually on a 4-6 week order! What are they doing? (Apart from putting off people from pre-ordering). Thanks Amazon, love you too.
2. You get an e-mail from an editor apologizing for the low fees on offer for some short fiction, but she hopes you will ‘write for the love of it’. No.
3. You get a rubbish review.
4. You are so busy with the rest of your life (i.e. the stuff that brings in the bacon) that you literally have no time to write.
5. People ask you how the ‘book’s going?’ and you get to say, ‘well, to be honest I have no idea. I guess it’s sold a few copies, you know.’
6. You get e-mails from people you don’t know who want you to help them get published. Thanks, but really I can’t help except to say read this.
7. People assume you make money from writing and are about to retire to some JK-Rowling-style mansion. No. Take what you think I might make on a novel and divide it by 17.
8. People assume you are some kind of literary intellectual who understands what they are talking about when they start on about modern European literature. No, but if we pitch it a little earlier I might have something to say. Last year I much enjoyed Lermontov’s Hero of Our Time and Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz, and I’ve still to meet someone with whom I can share my affection for Dekker & Middleton’s Roaring Girl.

Friday, May 13, 2005

On the other side of the pond

I've not had a chance to post this week as I've been in the USA. For the first time since I was a kid and went to Disneyland. It's a business trip, but I love traveling and just going to a new country is always fascinating to me.

The locals were pretty sure they were up on British slang - 'yeah, sure we know a pavement's a sidewalk' - but there have been two words I've used which have thrown them (into fits of laughter).

Sat in a jeep and thinking where to put my laptop when we get out to go to a bar...
Me: Do you have a closed boot?
Local: A what?
Me: A closed boot. For my laptop.
Local: A closed boot???
Me; Yes, a boot at the back I can put the laptop in to stop someone stealing it.
Local: A boot? Sorry, what's a boot?
Me: Ah! A... trunk, right?
Local: What? You call a trunk a boot?!

Sat in a meeting room:
Local: We can content share as much as possible.
Me: Indeed. If I can nick stuff you've drafted and just tweak it that would be super.
Local: Nip?
Me: Nick
Local: Nick? I thought you said nip - like what? cut 'n' paste?
Me: No, nick... it means steal... Brit slang, sorry!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Regency 'fiction'

Maili's observations, and Lady Tess and Emma Gad's responses on that fictional world which is Regency-England-according-to-the-laws-of-historical-romance has got me thinking. But I'm not thinking anything new from when I deliberately set out to write Regency which reflected more what I consider reality, than the costume dramas of many romances.

The reality is in the detail.

I've written two Regency romances which will be published next year by DC Thomson:

In A Notorious Deception, which is set in 1810, I had great fun researching canal transport. Did you know that there were canal passenger packet boats in the days before the railways, for example, the Padddington packet which carried passengers from Uxbridge up the Grand Junction Canal to London? The first part of the story takes place in Brentford, Middlesex. It was really interesting looking into the local history of the town and seeing how it was in Regency times. It was quite a well-to-do place, noted for its good shopping. My brief historical notes are here.

In Journey to Love, which I was revising earlier this year, the majority of the action takes place on the road from York to London. They pass through, for example, a town called Selby south of York, and I managed to find on the internet a near contemporary gazette of the town, and some pictures of the town and the River Ouse, and it's toll bridge. It's so great to be able to write this into the story:

‘Miss Oakley?’ a low voice was saying.
‘Oh! Oh dear!’ She must have fallen asleep! Bella felt her cheeks go red as she righted herself. Was it lunchtime already? The coach had stopped and they were in a town.
‘The coachman is paying the toll for the bridge,’ Mr Davenport said and smiled. The way he looked at her made her want to blush all the more. ‘We are in Selby.’
Bella stared out of the window, where the breeze coming in was thankfully cool. The horses jolted and walked over the magnificent draw bridge over the river which was bustling with ships and packet boats.

(c) K Allan, 2005

The Lady Soldier is a romance because romance is central to the story, but it's too real and breaks so many 'rules' that no romance publisher was going to be able to fit it into what is published as historical romance.

So it's being marketed as historical fiction. Which it is. There's plenty of action / adventure. It's set in the Army and the characters drink, and swear, and kill people. There is no brushing under the carpet, or using of a rose-tinted view.

I'm glad about this because romance readers will find it a little different from what they are used to, and hopefully a more satisfying read in the end precisely because the saccarine is not there.

I hope.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Daydreams can come true

Once upon a time, in around the middle of 2003, a girl called Kate Allan was daydreaming about writing an adventure story about a Napoleonic Joan of Arc type female soldier. Later, that autumn she suggested the idea as a novel to her critique partner Michelle Styles. A kind of 'let's do it jointly and have a laugh and not take it too seriously because knowing UK publishing no one will publish the thing' idea.

By January 2004, the novel was drafted, and Kate and Michelle started querying publishers, and after an initial flurry of rejections, tried some agents. After some feedback from an agent, the story was revised again. Nails got bitten when a publisher requested the full manuscript, but then rejected it. Ditto two agents. Finally, at the beginning of September, Robert Hale offered a publishing contract.

And now, in May 2005, it's here in hardcover! Official publication date is 31st May 2005.

The Lady Soldier
(c) K Allan

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Not the general election

This morning the postman pressed the bell at around 7.30am, and handed me a suspiciously half dozen book-shaped parcel. I scissored it open and there they were - the author advance copies of The Lady Soldier. Pristine, solid (it's hardcover) and seemingly with the whole story printed on the pages inside.

Golly gosh. Folks are going to be able to buy it so very soon*, and read it. The end of a journey seems so very near. I hope the boat is heading for the beach, and not the rocks.

Then I went out to vote in the elections.

*NB Tesco are offering 5% off pre-orders.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Canvas, port, firearms & follies

Sorry for the blabsence* but I had the last minute opportunity to go and camp with some Napoleonic re-enactors - specifically representatives of the 3rd Foot East Kent Light Infantry (Regimental nickname 'The Buffs' as they were the first regiment to have buff coloured facings. See I was paying attention!), the 71st Highlanders and the 60th Foot (Royal American regiment).

I had to skulk around a bit because I was in jeans and a t-shirt as I don't have a costume but it was a wonderful and I learned lots from listening to people talking, seeing and feeling the weapons, clothes and other bits and pieces, and the practical experiences. e.g. camping out under canvas and sitting around with a lot of Napoleonic soldiers drinking port into the early hours. It was also interesting listening to the different types of sounds made by different types of weapons. I could hear the difference between e.g. a pistol and a musket, but I was told that you can tell what the firearm is by its sound when you are familiar with them. Something I hadn't considered before, and an example of the kind of information that actually could be pivotal in a scene and thus come in handy in a novel.

Ideas, ideas...

The camp was at Painshill Park near Cobham in Surrey. A beautiful 18th century landscaped 'pleasure garden' complete with curiosities such as gothic tower, turkish tent and grotto - all made as follies. The many vistas are created and contrived but Painshill is certainly worth a visit if you are in that part of the world.

* blog absence